Saturday 26 December 2020

COVID-19 in the UK: the remarkable divergence between number of 'cases' and number of people reporting symptoms

6 Jan 2020: There is an important update to this article here

On 23 December over half a million people (507,384)  - the highest daily total yet - had a COVID-19 test in the UK (see That was an increase of 39.2% over the total tested (364,388) just one week earlier on 16 Dec. 

Yet, during exactly the same period there was an average daily total of just 8,500 total NHS triages (see - and that number includes all 999, 111 calls and 111-online reports. The increase from 16 Dec (when it was 8239) to 23 Dec (when it was 9185) was just 11%. And compare how low those numbers are to when the virus was at its peak in March; for example, on 19 March there were 152,088 NHS triages. 

Four days after those 152,088 people reported symptoms through NHS triages there were, according to the Government website, 1,379 confirmed 'cases' (where, of course, 'cases' simply means a positive test result). On 18 Dec just 7,969 people reported symptoms through NHS triages. Yet, on 22 Dec there were 44,903 'cases'.  So, whereas in March less than 1% of the number reporting symptoms through the NHS tested positive, we now have a situation where, for every person reporting symptoms through the NHS we have nearly six testing positive.  If that March ratio applied today then the 7,969 people with symptoms would equate to about 72 'cases', not the 44,903 reported. 

The remarkably diverging difference between 'cases' and people reporting symptoms provides yet more evidence that the vast majority of those currently testing positive do not have the virus. 

There are causal explanations for part of the divergence: in March - unlike now -  it was primarily patients hospitalized with the virus who were being tested, so people who may have had the virus but had minor (or no symptoms) may not not have been recorded as 'cases'. It is also possible that more people with symptoms now are choosing to go straight for a test and not report their symptoms through the NHS. However, these causal explanations go nowhere near to explaining the scale of the divergence observed (625 times as many cases per people reporting symptoms since March).

We have, of course, been reporting on the problem with testing (especially PCR testing) for a long time now. Those who insist that the UK faces a continued and increasingly massive health crisis point to the rise in both number of 'COVID-19' deaths and hospitalisations. But those are simply the number of deaths and hospitalisations of people who have tested positive for COVID-19. Given the massive increase in testing, the official COVID-19 figures for deaths and hospitalisations are - like the number of 'cases' - completely uninformative.

The argument that an increase in test positivity rate (the percentage of tests that are positive) is - along with the increase in deaths and hospitalisations - definitive 'proof' of how 'bad things are' can also be easily challenged, for reasons discussed extensively here and here

It is also important to note that those who point to the Government-backed ZOE COVID symptom app tracker for estimates of number of cases are also being misled, because the website clearly states that the estimate is based on 'the app + swab tests'.

Finally, here is an update of the COVID 'case' data using the Government figures (but taking account of number of tests). All the usual caveats discussed here apply.

And it all point to the need for a reminder of this:

See also: Previous posts on COVID data



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